When it comes to effective management and great coaching leadership, one-on-one meetings (1x1s) with your people are a necessity. Without regular, scheduled time with your people, it is nearly impossible to lead and engage them well.
Regular 1x1s allow you to stay connected to your team, hear what’s happening and important to them (both at work and in their life) and provide the support, encouragement and accountability that’s required of you as a leader.
So if you are a leader that isn’t currently having regular 1x1s with your people, that’s the first step – and honestly a non-negotiable. So as soon as your done reading this, make sure to get those scheduled ASAP.
But if you want to bring out the best in your people, simply having the 1x1 isn’t enough. When we work with leaders and ask them to tell us about their 1x1 meetings, the truth is that too often they sound too much like a progress check-in – let’s review what you’re working on so we’re both informed and up-to-date. And while that can be an important part of your 1x1s, that can’t be the entire focus.
Some leaders go a step further and open it up to their people to bring their agenda. Again, this is a great idea and should be effectively woven into your 1x1 rhythm. By bringing the topics that are important to them, you will increase their involvement and engagement – but that leaves the direction entirely up to them.
Great coaching leaders know how to balance the needs of their people (what’s on their mind and important to them), the needs of the company (what needs to be communicated) and what they see as an engaged coaching leader (opportunities to coach, strengthen, challenge and encourage).
To ensure that you are weaving together all three – with an emphasis on supporting your people and driving engagement – we have found that there are four important conversations that every manager needs to ensure that they are having with their people.
These aren’t checkboxes to be filled out as part of a formal process but rather key areas and themes that should be woven into ongoing conversations with your people. And your 1x1 meetings are a great time to ensure that these conversations happen on a regular basis.
When we talk about well-being, there are three primary areas we want to focus on: physical, social and emotional. Combined, these areas paint a picture of someone’s overall level of health and wellness.
With the lines between work and home blurred more than ever before, leaders need to care about their people’s well-being. Not only does it show your people that you care about them (a key driver for engagement) but the connection between well-being and performance is clear. One study found that employees who reported higher levels of well-being reported a 20 percent increase in both personal and team productivity.
Great leaders are courageous about helping to support the well-being of their people to be the best versions of themselves not just at work but in all areas of their lives.
If your people don’t see and aren’t excited about their future as a result of trading their hours to be a part of your team, it will be nearly impossible to engage them. As leaders, you need to be communicating the organization’s vision (and they fit into that), your team’s vision (and what you’ll accomplish together) and supporting their personal vision (where and how will they grow and develop in the years ahead).
Vision is a requirement of leadership, and often serves to differentiate between managers and leaders. You must engage people in regular conversations about these three levels of vision to create the type of culture that causes both you and them to stretch and grow.
This is all about having clear expectations and clarity around what a win looks like for each member of your team. With competing priorities and distractions, it’s all too easy to allow competing priorities (or simply poor communication) to pull our focus and attention away from the handful of things that will truly drive the business and our teams forward. Plus, all of us want to know what’s expected of us so we can feel like we’re winning in our roles and the contribution we’re making.
This isn’t a set it and forget it type of thing – great leaders have regular conversations here, with a clear emphasis on making sure their people have the resources they need to be successful and are giving them the support they need.
Simply knowing what a win looks like isn’t enough. Too often we allow the tyranny of the urgent to distract us from getting the right things done. For many of us, we find it difficult to say “no” to all of the good things that come across our desk – often at the expense of the great things we’ve already committed to.
Great leaders come alongside their people to help them manage this reality (which often includes a healthy dose of accountability). Sometimes deadlines and projects need to shift, but we always want to ensure these are proactive decisions rather than reactive ones – and that we are helping to support our people to know the difference, think through their options and execute with excellence.
The Bottom Line
While spending time with your people (either in 1x1s, team meetings or casual conversations), ensure that you are regularly covering these four conversations. If you do, you’ll show your people that you care about them, you’ll be investing in them and their future and you’ll be putting them in a position to be successful in their roles. Do those three things well – and you’ll see results and engagements improve while finding more meaning and satisfaction in your role as well. After all, that’s what being a coaching leader is all about.
If you would like to continue learning, check out our Focusing Your Effort - Quick Reference Guide.